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Another Voice: Legislation is needed to protect call center jobs in New York

By Rev. Kirk Laubenstein

Call centers have historically provided solid, middle-class jobs for New York families. Workers are able to earn enough to provide for their families with, sometimes, enough left over for family vacations and college saving accounts for their kids.

Corporate greed combined with federal tax cuts that incentivize shipping jobs overseas, however, have encouraged companies like AT&T and Verizon to move these jobs away and outsource them abroad or to other areas of the country where they can pay workers less. In some countries, call centers pay as little as $2 an hour.

In New York, there have been more than 40,000 call center jobs lost and counting since 2006. Most recently, AT&T announced it will close a call center in Syracuse, cutting 150 jobs. In 2017, Verizon Wireless also closed two call centers in New York, eliminating 850 jobs (600 in Henrietta and 250 in Orangeburg).

If our elected officials continue to do nothing, corporations will continue to outsource jobs to cut costs, devastating families and communities. This is why it is imperative for the State Legislature to pass a law to prevent the outsourcing of jobs from New York State to other locations.

Call center jobs have provided an important source of economic growth for communities across the country, including many reeling from the loss of manufacturing jobs. But when these services are outsourced to low-wage contractors, communities lose yet another large pool of family-supporting jobs.

There are more than 260,000 call center jobs in New York and these men and women are all on edge.

The Communications Workers of America, which represents 66,220 workers in New York, formed the Save NY Call Center Jobs Coalition to bring awareness to this attack on New York’s middle class and urge lawmakers in Albany to pass the New York State Call Center Jobs Act.

The legislation, which passed last year in the Assembly and was supported by a majority of senators, will protect New York’s middle class and ensure corporations are not rewarded with tax breaks for moving jobs elsewhere.

Specifically, it would end tax breaks or other state incentives to any call center employer with more than 50 employees that moves 30 percent or more of their operations out of the state. It would also require state agencies to use New York call centers for their customer service. Why should we be spending taxpayer dollars to send jobs out of state?

Now that the Senate leadership is no longer a stumbling block, it’s time to pass the bill and protect our communities and families.

Rev. Kirk Laubenstein is executive director of the Coalition for Economic Justice in Buffalo.

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